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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Two receivers are in fight for one job

    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    08/29/2006


    If the Rams keep six wide receivers, as expected, it's pretty much a given that five of them will be Isaac Bruce, Kevin Curtis, Torry Holt, Dane Looker and Shaun McDonald.

    As to who gets the sixth spot, that decision may come down more to kickoff and punt return ability than pass-catching skills. Coach Scott Linehan and special teams coach Bob Ligashesky have taken a long, hard look at rookie Marques Hagans and free-agent pickup Brad Pyatt throughout training camp and the preseason as return men.

    Ideally, Linehan wants one player to handle both punt return and kickoff return chores, in addition to holding a roster spot as the No. 6 wide receiver.

    Trouble is, Pyatt has shown more as a kickoff returner. But Hagans, a fifth-round draft choice, has shown more as a punt returner.
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    So exhibition or not, Thursday night's contest in Miami is shaping up as one of the most important of their football-playing careers.

    "Yeah, because I didn't have a good game last week," Pyatt said, referring to the Chiefs game. "I didn't feel like I showed what I could do. For some reason I was a little off, so I want to definitely have a good game this week."

    Pyatt returned two kickoffs for an average of 21.5 yards against Kansas City, and caught one pass for 7 yards. But he struggled as a punt returner.

    "I misjudged two punts and let them go over my head, and that's just not acceptable for me," Pyatt said. "And I know from Coach's standpoint, it's not acceptable."

    Pyatt thought both punts were going out of bounds -- one did and one didn't. Kansas City's Dustin Colquitt is a left-footed punter, so his kicks drifted from left to right, unlike the usual right-to-left movement of a right-footed punter. And that's why his punts headed back in bounds when booted toward the left sideline at Arrowhead Stadium.

    Meanwhile, Hagans looked more comfortable returning kickoffs against Kansas City than at any time previously this preseason. He returned two kickoffs for 27.5 yards Saturday. Entering the Chiefs game, Pyatt was averaging 28.3 yards per kickoff return to Hagans' 19.5.



    "I think I'm starting to get a little bit more comfortable (returning kickoffs)," Hagans said. "At first, things were just moving real fast and real erratic, but it's starting to slow down a little bit."

    A college quarterback at Virginia, Hagans had much more experience returning punts than kickoffs for the Cavaliers. And of course, wide receiver is a new position. So he's got a lot to digest as an NFL rookie.

    "I think it's a lot more difficult, because everybody on this level is good," Hagans said. "Every day you're going against the best, so kind of starting off behind everybody is hard. But I've got great people around me in the receiving corps, a great coach, and everybody's been helping."

    Hagans didn't catch a pass against KC and has only one catch for 19 yards in exhibition play. Pyatt's only other catch before Saturday was a 40-yard reception against Indianapolis, the Rams' second-longest pass play of the preseason.

    As a punt returner, Hagans is averaging 8.7 yards on six returns. Pyatt has yet to return a punt; he has four fair catches.

    Pyatt has the acceleration and overall speed that seemingly would make him an effective kickoff returner. Hagans has the elusiveness that seemingly would make him an effective punt returner.

    Pyatt feels he must land a knockout punch against Miami in order to nail down a spot on the 53-man roster.

    "I would like to do that, because I know I'm on the bubble," Pyatt said. "I want to make it clear to the coaches that I can take (a kickoff) past the 50 this weekend, or even all the way. So they're like, 'OK, he's legit.' "

    Other than try his best, Hagans is taking a more philosophical approach to making -- or not making -- the team.

    "There's nothing you can do about it," he said. "If it's your time to go, it's your time to go. So all you can do is show up every day and try to go to work. ... Where the chips fall, that's where they're going to fall."


    Countdown to Cutdown: Wide receiver


    Wide receivers in camp: 11

    Likely to make final roster: 6

    Safe and sound: Isaac Bruce, Kevin Curtis, Torry Holt, Dane Looker, Shaun McDonald.

    On the bubble: Marques Hagans, Brad Pyatt, Dominique Thompson.

    Probably not: Brandon Middleton, Clinton Solomon, Taylor Stubblefield.


  2. #2
    jkramsfan's Avatar
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    Re: Two receivers are in fight for one job

    i like pyatts attitude about the situation much better, wanting to go out and impress the coaches were as hagans seems to be if i make it i make it,having said all this i think hagans makes the team.

  3. #3
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    Re: Two receivers are in fight for one job

    Personnallym Im not crazy about looker of late! There are a few recievers on our roster right now that have a little more too offer to the team but, they probably will be cut.

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    Re: Two receivers are in fight for one job

    Quote Originally Posted by talkstoangels61 View Post
    Personnallym Im not crazy about looker of late!
    Well that may be, but Looker is signed for the next 2 years and is not going to be a cap liability. Actually I don't think Dane did all that bad a job returning punts last year; he caught the ball cleanly, didn't fumble any, and ran straight ahead and got as many yards as he could. No mistakes in the return game is about all the Rams can hope for at this point in time. Plus, factor in that he's been Wilkins' holder for the past 4 years and his value is "Lookerin'" better all the time. Also, this is McDonald's walk year as he is slated to be a free agent next year and will, in all likelihood, be difficult to resign.

    WHAT SAY YE?

  5. #5
    tim
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    Re: Two receivers are in fight for one job

    Quote Originally Posted by RAMarkable View Post
    No mistakes in the return game is about all the Rams can hope for at this point in time.
    WHAT SAY YE?
    no way... if there's someone on the roster who is a legitimate threat at the kick return position then THAT'S what the rams should be looking for. looker does not have the explosiveness to be a real threat returning punts.

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    RealRam's Avatar
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    Re: Two receivers are in fight for one job

    Looker does not have the explosiveness to be a real threat returning punts. -- Tim
    Totally agree. BUT he is a dependable veteran receiver that solidifies the Rams WR depth; not to mention his excellent skills and experience as holder for Jeff Wilkins, working also with LS Chris Massey.

  7. #7
    RAMarkable is offline Registered User
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    Re: Two receivers are in fight for one job

    Quote Originally Posted by tim View Post
    no way... if there's someone on the roster who is a legitimate threat at the kick return position then THAT'S what the rams should be looking for. looker does not have the explosiveness to be a real threat returning punts.
    Agreed tim, but that's a big "if"; and I don't see anyone on the roster who even remotely fills that requirement. Granted McDonald is quicker and faster, but how many muffed punts and fumbles are we willing to put up with just for the few times he might make a play? My point was that Looker gives us a stability at the return position that the other candidates just don't. And with our "special" teams blocking woes, I don't think we will be breaking any explosive punt returns any time soon.

    WHAT SAY YE?

  8. #8
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    Re: Two receivers are in fight for one job

    Think of all the fun we could have with Hagan as reciever...all the wacky stuff the steelers do with their WR/Ex-QBs. I love trick plays, and when used appropriately can be quite effective. With a WR/QB handling the passing portion of these plays they would be even more effective. And I agree Looker is here fo his dependability/holding abilities and not for his explosiveness. I would still LOVE to see Curtis get in on punt/kick return action.

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